Jim Hunt

Jim Hunt, contributing sports writer

Register file photo

1935: In the only known mention in the Star until the 1970s of an all girls’ tennis team, it’s reported that the St. Helena High girls defeated Sonoma 3-0 in Sonoma. Match winners: Mary Jinks, No. 1 singles; Angela Caminati, No. 2 singles; and Ida Merla and “Frenchie” Benitou, doubles.

1968: On Carpy Field in St. Helena, the Saints beat Cloverdale 6-1 in baseball. Jim Schuh was 2 for 3 with two RBIs; Alan Hardin went 2 for 5 with a triple and two RBIs. Hardin was also the winning pitcher, giving up just three hits while striking out 14.

1984: The Saints baseball team beat Lower Lake 5-3 in 13 innings in Lower Lake. Clint Wilsey was 2 for 5 with a double and a home run, and George Walker went 2 for 5 with a triple and an RBI. Walker pitched the entire 13 innings to get the win, allowing only five hits and striking out 10.

1989: In softball in St. Helena, the Saints defeated St. Patrick’s of Vallejo 5-4 in eight innings. Deja Talley was 2 for 4 with an RBI; Crystal Williamson went 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs; and Samantha Cheney added a home run. Cynthia Hoyt was the winning pitcher.

1991: In girls track and field, Janet Bingham, Christy Gonsolin, Kelly Pun, and Tanya Wolf set a new girls’ school record of 51.8 in the 440-yard relay.

Plus: A Love Affair with Tennis

The 1905 Far Darter yearbook told us that the high school boys had been talking for a while about building a tennis court behind the school site at Turner Hall on Main Street. Finally, on May 1 of that year, they finished building the court and formed “The High School Tennis Club.”

For the next few years, however, there is very little information to be found in the Far Darter or the Star on SHHS tennis. Finally, in 1914, an article in the Far Darter stated that a new tennis court had been built at the new high school site on Grayson Avenue situated to the southwest of the main building, facing north and south.

It wasn’t until the spring of 1918, however, that interest in tennis really took off and SHHS began to emerge as a North Bay Area tennis powerhouse. The Far Darter of 1918 had the following comment on tennis at SHHS.

“Enthusiasm for tennis is very much stronger this year than ever before. Our first match was played with Calistoga. The first event was the doubles which St. Helena won. (Alfred) Jursch and (Maxwell) Murray played for St. Helena. Next was a single won by (William) Rivers of St. Helena. This was followed by another single which Jursch won easily.”

The following school year, 1919-20, tennis was played in both the fall and spring, a tradition that was to continue until the early 1950s.

In the fall of 1919, SHHS became a member of what was called the Northwestern League (NWL), and the Saints won the pennant that season defeating Napa, Analy, and Petaluma in the league tournament.

The following spring of 1920 brought even greater honors to the SHHS tennis team. The trio of Jursch, Murray, and Rivers easily took matches from Napa and Calistoga to win the Napa County Division of the S.N.S.C.A.L.; defeated Vallejo for the championship of the league’s Napa/Solano County division; and then beat Sonoma County champion Petaluma for the overall S.N.S.C.A.L. pennant, the first in St. Helena history.

At the conclusion of the 1921 school year, the S.N.S.C.A.L. was disbanded and SHHS was placed in the Central Division of the newly realigned Northwestern League along with Calistoga, Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg and Sonoma. SHHS won the title that year also.

The next four seasons, fall 1924 through fall 1926, with a team composed of Carl Jursch, Lionel Blake, Charles Pfister and Theodore Maliani, the Saints won every overall NWL pennant.

By 1930, two new tennis courts had been constructed alongside Grayson Avenue at the north end of the high school building. These courts lasted until 1952 when they were torn up and replaced by what was then the new auditorium.

Following those highly successful years of tennis prominence, SHHS netters won only two league titles during the next 21 years. It was the 1946 fall team, led by a fine group of players including Dano Matiuzzi, Gordon Kiernan, Maxwell Money, Marvin Keyser, Gene DiPasqua and Bob Jursch, won the NBL II pennant with a 4-0 record.

The spring team of 1947, consisting of the same players, also won the NBL II pennant. The following spring (1948) saw the Saints share the league title with Healdsburg.

The next championship year came in the spring of 1950, and then the Saints went into a prolonged and frustrating drought, not winning another league title until 1977.

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